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Apple iMac 21.5-inch (Quad Core i5/2.5-GHz)

Eric Ernest 2011-07-02
85 Very Good
Price: Rs 64,900

Full Review

The entry-level 21.5-inch iMac all-in-one desktop computer is from Apple's Summer 2011 series. Included in this series are two variants each for both the 21.5 inch and 27.5 inch models. These newer iMacs have tech specs that are a major upgrade over their predecessors, so, let’s see whether the new 21.5-inch iMac can claim the throne in the arena of all-in-one desktops.


Design

At a cursory glance, the new iMac resembles the earlier versions in terms of physical appearance. It continues the earlier iMac tradition of having very good build quality and a simple yet elegant aluminium design - with all the hardware incorporated into the case behind the screen. The entire chassis sits comfortably on a solid aluminium stand.

The iMac comes with an Apple Wireless Keyboard and Apple Magic Mouse. And in true Apple style of keeping everything simple, there is just one wire that accompanies this entire set - the power cord. The iMac features a 21.5 inch LED-backlit glossy widescreen display; it's most prominent feature appearance wise. The iMac supports a maximum screen resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. The inbuilt speakers are located under the screen with the heat vents located at the top back section of the screen. At the lower back portion of the screen, just in front of the stand are the ports for connecting the power cable, a small ventilation fan inlet and a Kensington lock port.



Screen Display

The iMac's 21.5 inch IPS (in-plane switching) panel provides for a visual treat. The viewing angles are very good and even when viewed sideways - at an almost-180 degree angle, there is almost no color distortion whatsoever visible on the screen. While I wouldn’t mind working in front of this monitor for extended periods of time, the screen is very reflective and this feature can put you off - it's almost like looking at a mirror. Despite this very small irritant, the 21.5 inch screen is a joy to behold and watching videos, photos and text is fun. With all the popularity surrounding touch screens and how Apple's other products such as the iPhone and iPad have touch enabled screens, it's rather interesting to note that Apple has not yet implemented a touch-enabled screen on the iMac.

Wireless Keyboard and Magic Mouse

The wireless keyboard and magic mouse operate over Bluetooth and both work seamlessly with the iMac.

The wireless keyboard comes in a slim form factor and has an aluminium finish with white chiclet keys. While having a good tactile feedback is important, I felt that the keys were too hard to the touch and this does become quite an irritant when typing for long periods. The keyboard also has no dedicated number pad or for that matter any ports.



The magic mouse has no scroll wheel, and instead has a unique multi-touch feature. This feature allows the user to use various gestures such as scrolling and two-finger swiping. There are no visible buttons on the exterior, with the entire front section on top of the mouse serving as the single all encompassing button. While this mouse has a very cool design and is quite functional, the multi touch feature was a bit too sensitive for my taste. So don’t to be too surprised if the page you are viewing suddenly scrolls down/up without you having intended it to. New users might take some time getting used to this feature.

Hardware

This entry level 21.5 inch iMac sports Intel's second generation 2.5 GHz quad core i5-2400S (Sandy Bridge). The iMac comes with 4GB DDR3 RAM, 500 GB (7200 RPM) hard drive and AMD Radeon HD 6750M graphics card with 512MB RAM. The AMD 6750M graphics card is intended as a mid level laptop graphics card, and so it performs to that level.

The iMac has an audio line in port, an audio line out port, 4 USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire 800 port, a new Thunderbolt port, and a gigabit Ethernet port. All these ports are located at the back of the screen. Theres also a FaceTime HD camera on the bezel, at the top of the screen, and a built in microphone right next to it. The Power button is located at the left hand bottom corner on the back of the screen.



Thunderbolt is Intel's new I/O technology that supports high-resolution displays and high-performance data devices (it is said to support data transfer speeds of up to 10Gbps in both directions) through a single port. While it is a welcome addition, Thunderbolt's true value will only be seen as and when more compatible devices are made available.

On the right side of the screen, the iMac has an optical drive slot and a SDXC card slot. The iMac has Wi-Fi 802.11n and Bluetooth wireless connectivity.



More details can be seen on this review's "Specifications" page.

Software

The iMac comes preinstalled with Mac OS X Version 10.6.7 Snow Leopard and its own set of proprietary software. Included in this set is the iTunes, Time Machine, Quick Look, Spaces, Spotlight, Dashboard, Mail, iChat, Safari, Address Book, QuickTime, iCal, DVD Player, Photo Booth. Also Included is the iLife '11 suite of apps, which comprises iPhoto, iMovie, and GarageBand. The iWork suite of apps was missing though.

Performance



We installed 64-bit Windows 7 using Boot Camp on the this iMac for running our set of synthetic benchmarks. The iMac scored 133 in the WorldBench 6 test, which is an excellent score. This score points to how the iMac packs a very powerful punch and going through your daily activities should be a comfortable task for the iMac. Also it should more than suffice as a home entertainment device.

The iMac's audio system provides a very loud output, though the sound clarity is just OK. However this is not surprising considering that the iMac has inbuilt speakers. The iMac does a superb job of playing high-definition HD 720p and 1080p videos.

Playing games on the iMac would be best at lower to medium settings given that the AMD Radeon HD 6750M is a mid level mobile graphics card. This is not surprising given that iMac is not meant to be a gaming computer.

FarCry 2, played at 1920x1080, DirectX 10 mode, AA 8x, and ‘Ultra High’ settings, registered a 17.78 fps -- barely playable. For Metro 2033, played at 1920x1080, DirectX 11, Very High Quality, AAA, AF 4X, and all settings maxed out registered a measly 7.33 fps. Given these scores, playing games at low to medium settings, as well as at the iMac's native resolution, would make for a comparatively smoother sailing for casual gamers.

Another point gamers should keep in mind is that the magic mouse's multi touch-feature is slightly over sensitive and can interfere with your gameplay at times. I had the misfortune of experiencing this in the middle of a gunfight when I happened to slightly move my fingers on the mouse while clicking, resulting in my in-game character switching weapons. I ended up having chosen my bare arms (somehow), to go up against all that automatic weapon fire. Well, it suffices to say that that was the end of my gaming session on the iMac.

The iMac operates very silently. It does heat up to quite an extent, especially around the ventilation openings. While this does not affect the performance of the system, you will notice the heat when you touch the areas around the top back part of the screen.

Upgradability

As is to be expected of any Apple product, you aren’t encouraged to perform any hardware upgrades on your own. If you do have to get a better configuration, you will have to get that done through Apple. However if you are interested in changing the memory, there is a slot under the screen, in between the speaker where the RAM module is located.

Bottom Line

The configuration we tested cost Rs. 64,900. In terms of performance, it is a clear improvement on the previous iMac series. The price is still rather high, and the absence of features such a Blu-ray drive doesn’t help the case of the iMac. However if you are a Mac/Apple loyalist this iMac is well worth its price. And even if you are not an Apple fan, this is one all-in-one desktop that you must definitely check out.

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